Free Press Journal

23rd GST Council Meet underway, rate cuts on A/C restaurants likely to be discussed


Guwahati: The 23rd meeting of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is now underway and is being chaired by Union Finance minister Arun Jaitley.

The council is likely to deliberate on a number of topics, including extended liberalization given to small traders, rate cuts on A/C restaurants from 18 to 12 percent, and the issue of benami properties.

The council is also expected to slash tax rates on various goods of common consumption such as handmade furniture, shampoo, sanitary ware, plywood, stationery articles, and play instruments, among others. It is also likely to deliver its decision on the proposal for big businesses to file GST returns quarterly instead of monthly, and raising the sales ceiling for small businesses from Rs1 crore to Rs1.5 crore, thus enabling them to capitalise on the composition scheme are among the proposals before the GST Council.

Earlier in the day, Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said he is hopeful of a “shower of changes in GST rates” in lieu of the council meeting.

The senior Congress Party leader took to twitter and said “Expect a shower of changes in GST rates from GST Council meeting today. Panic-stricken government has no option but to concede demands for change.”

Stating that debates on GST can no longer be avoided on a public domain, Chidambaram opined that the letter written by the Congress-ruled state finance ministers to Finance Minister Jaitley would “set the tone for discussions” during the meeting.


    Why GST on Sanitary napkins was not reduced?

    Chocolate Becomes Cheaper, No Such Luck for Sanitary Napkins. Sanitary napkins the most basic necessity for a woman continues to remain costly even though across country, time and again, people have requested the Finance Minister to review his decision again.

    The GST Council decided on 10.11.17 to reduce the 28 per cent GST tax rate on a range of items to 18 per cent. From chewing gum to chocolates, preparation for facial make-up, shaving and after-shave items, shampoo, deodorants and washing powder detergent etc. will attract lower 18 per cent tax rate now.

    However, yet again, Sanitary Napkins has been ignored from the bracket of the ‘Necessary Items’, as the most commonly used product by thousands and thousands of women in India continues to be in the whopping 12% tax slab.

    The Centre shoves sanitary napkins into a category that also houses items such as sports goods, toys, artefacts, collector’s items, proving menstrual hygiene products are still perhaps viewed as a novelty item, something used for entertainment rather than survival.

    India has 355 million menstruating women and around 88 per cent of the women in the country still do not use sanitary pads. The reason is simple; most of the women in India still cannot afford the most basic necessity to their hygiene, and still the GST regime ensures the cost stays in the higher bracket.

    From July 1, ever since the tax was imposed, industry experts and citizens across India have questioned the move. Even the Delhi High court filed a petition seeking reply from the Finance Ministry on imposition of 12% GST on Sanitary Napkins. But, till date rates have not been cut down.

    Recently, even actor Kalki Koechlin through her short video on GST which means Girls Ko Satao Tax questions the 12% GST on sanitary napkins. Through her video she voices her opinion and asked the GST Council, chaired by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, to reconsider rates fixed for sanitary napkins.

    She says,
    I don’t know about acche din but humari life mein har mahine paanch not-so-acche-din toh hote hi hain (I don’t know about good days, but in our lives, we have at least five mandatory not-so-good days).
    and adds even though different brands of sanitary napkins exist in the market neither of them come tax-free.

    The move was a regressive step in the discourse on menstrual health, which was a painstaking process and 12% GST on napkins takes a toll on the health of large percentage of rural women, who have no access to sanitary napkins.

    One in four girls drop out of school when they start menstruating — girls miss as much as 20 per cent of the school year due to menstruation. It ought to be obvious that pads, an aid to menstrual hygiene, cannot fall within “luxury goods”, and should be exempt from taxes, in principle and practicality.

    The reality of a menstruating body is decidedly un-sexy, un-holy and uninteresting in this heterosexual male fantasy of the ideal Indian woman. The imposition of GST on pads is incompatible with Article 15(1) of the Constitution as it is per se discriminatory against women. The levy of GST on sanitary napkins tells us that there can be no presumptions as to the recognition of equality of persons, disadvantage, and the importance of women’s work in this country.

    Across the country, this decision taken by GST council is not being viewed positively. This is a clear case of discrimination against women, depriving them of the basic rights to use quality napkins for a biological process like menstruation.

    Let’s pretend that most little girls in villages do not miss five days of school monthly, or that 23 percent drop out altogether when they reach menarche because they have very poor means of maintaining hygiene during menstruation.

    Let’s pretend that menstruation is a woman’s burden, and absolve ourselves of all responsibilities as a government of providing a respectable life to all its citizens.

    For when she actually bleeds in this country, let’s scramble into denial about this excruciatingly beautiful phenomenon that is the cornerstone of humanity itself. Let’s pretend it does not exist. Let’s pretend that 88 percent of the girls in India do not use unsanitary cloth, dry leaves, newspapers, sand, and plastic during menstruation.